UK to end contribution to climate change by 2050

Following a statement by PM Theresa May and legislation laid by the government yesterday UK is now on the path to become the first major economy to set net zero emissions target in law.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050. The statutory instrument to implement this was laid in Parliament on Wednesday 12 June. This will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.

The UK already leads the world in tackling climate change, and Government commissioned this advice in October having recognised the need to go even further to limit its effects.

In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.

This legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions, with other major economies expected to follow suit. But it is imperative that other major economies follow suit. For that reason, the UK will conduct a further assessment within 5 years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.

For the first time, young people will have the chance to shape our future climate policy through the Youth Steering Group. The Group, set up by DCMS and led by the British Youth Council, will advise Government on priorities for environmental action and give a view on progress to date against existing commitments on climate, waste and recycling, and biodiversity loss. They will start their review in July.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.

“Whilst it will be for future governments to determine the precise direction of future climate policy, the Committee on Climate Change acknowledge that we have laid strong foundations through our Clean Growth Strategy and taken action to tackle climate change across key sectors of the economy identified by the report.”

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark said: “We want to continue our global leadership and that’s why we are introducing a legally binding net zero target to end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050. The report we commissioned from the Committee on Climate Change makes clear that we have laid the foundations to achieve a net zero emissions economy, and that it is necessary and feasible.

“Almost 400,000 people are already employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains across the country. Through our modern Industrial Strategy we’re investing in clean growth to ensure we reap the rewards and create two million high quality jobs by 2030.

“The UK is already a centre for clean growth and innovation. Low carbon technology and clean energy contribute £44.5 billion to our economy every year. We are ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans through our world-leading Road to Zero Strategy, and protecting biodiversity and promoting sustainability through our 25 Year Environment Plan.”

Businesses, academics and people across society have endorsed the advice from the Committee on Climate Change. Welcoming the announcement, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE, CBI Director-General, said: “UK business stands squarely behind the Government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it.

“Climate leadership can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity. This legislation must be followed by a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy.

“Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.

“We will retain the ability to use international carbon credits. Using international credits within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework is the right thing to do for the planet, allowing the UK to maximise the value of each pound spent on climate change mitigation.

“We will continue to work with our international partners to tackle climate change, including through our bid to host COP26.”

James Robottom, IET Energy and Climate Change Lead, said: “Committing to net-zero by 2050 is a very ambitious and complex challenge but one that engineers have to be at the heart of. The technology and approaches that will deliver net zero are now understood, which is crucial, but will need strong policy leadership to ensure they are implemented.

“Engineers will play a vital advisory role to ensure the deployment of large-scale projects, programmes and large investment in infrastructure is achieved in an effective and timely manner. There is also a vast opportunity for advancements in digital technology to drive efficiency and deliver savings.

“Progress has been made in transport and electricity but this needs to continue at a great pace and significant challenges remain in decarbonising heat and industry. 80 per cent of the homes we will be living in, in 2050, have already been built, meaning foremost a national retrofit programme has to be seriously considered and implemented to bring these into net-zero targets.

“Tackling climate change is the ultimate goal and one engineers and technologists now and in the future can be inspired and motivated to achieve. This target presents an opportunity to develop a world-leading green economy, upskill the current workforce and prepare the next generation to step up to this challenge. We now have the chance to put the UK, and its engineers, as leaders and deliver real solutions to these complex problems.

“The Institution of Engineering and Technology is fully committed to these goals and will do everything it can to assist government, industry and the profession to understand these challenges and work together to progress and implement the solutions to make the UK carbon free by 2050.”

Electrotechnical and engineering services trade body ECA has welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to legislate for a UK net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

ECA is now urging the Government to commit to meaningful and swift action to help meet their own ambitious target.

Paul Reeve, ECA Director of CSR, commented: “This is the first step on what we hope will be the UK’s journey to Net Zero Carbon. No-one should expect the feat of resolving the UK’s carbon footprint to be anything other than daunting, but the Government has issued a truly remarkable response to the ‘zero carbon’ challenge set out by the CCC in May.

“The task ahead is immense: the UK is drastically short of the infrastructure, supply and installation capacity needed to introduce low-carbon building heating at scale. There are also major ‘low carbon’ skills gaps across building design, construction and installation. We also need to ensure that whatever happens in the years ahead delivers the quality and performance necessary for whole-life low carbon buildings.”

Luke Osborne, ECA Energy Solutions Advisor, commented: “It is great that the outgoing Prime Minister is finally taking a positive step in committing to tackling climate change. However, it must be noted that any recourse to ‘carbon credits’ could be used as a backdoor, allowing the UK to buy success while relying on action from developing nations.”

“The Government therefore needs to focus on reducing UK domestic emissions as much as possible, through measures such as decarbonisation of the grid, and the full electrification of public transport.”

The Heat Pump Association (HPA) has also welcomed the government’s announcement that the UK will become the first major nation to commit to reaching a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. However, it also warns that clear policy and a widespread adoption of ultra low-carbon heating systems are urgently required in order for the target to stand a realistic chance of being met.

The UK already has a 2050 target – to reduce emissions by 80 per cent, which was agreed by MPs under the Climate Change Act in 2008, but it will now be amended to the new, much tougher goal that will demand a big move away from carbon-based heating systems. Despite acknowledging in the past that a major shift to solely heat pumps would be impractical, the HPA is calling on the government to promote wider support for heat pumps, as a technology that is widely understood, and is available now. This means the work towards hitting this new target can begin immediately, without the need to develop new technology.

Graham Wright, Chairman of the HPA, said: “We are extremely encouraged by the government’s decision to cut the UK’s emissions to almost zero by 2050, but to achieve this government and industry, collectively, must not ‘take our foot off the gas’. What industry needs now are clear signals, with explicit policy and well communicated pathways to low-carbon heating such as heat pumps.”

Wright continued: “The industry needs to prepare for increased production and training with a degree of certainty that is only achievable by clear policy and distinct time frames. The technology is widely available, but more structured training is needed to implement it. The HPA is ready to help government raise awareness among installers and customers and is already planning to set up its own training courses in the near future.”

BSRIA has also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement to commit the UK to net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. On behalf of BSRIA members, and the wider built environment industry, it’s now calling on government to turn words into deeds and deliver such action.

Peter Tse, Business Manager, Sustainable Construction Group, BSRIA said: “Government has now acted setting out its zero net carbon stall, leading the global challenge by addressing the UK’s carbon footprint with the decision to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), creating a legally binding net-zero carbon target for 2050.

“The task ahead is truly challenging given the UK is currently significantly behind the targets set out in both fourth and fifth carbon budgets. However, it is encouraging to see many businesses already leading the way, with strong commitments and swift progress and a new Net Zero Taskforce launched to support the private sector’s transition to a net zero carbon future.”